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Butch T. Cougar: Winner of the Pac-12 Mascots Death Match

Butch T. Cougar has won the Pac-12 Mascots Death Match. Congratulations to the affable, albeit deadly feline of the Pacific Northwest. And, if you’re asking me, no matter his seeding (#11), he deserved this honor.

In a battle that saw anthropomorphism tossed around like names in a coaching hunt, Butch eliminated a Tree, Devil, Bruin, and a Buffalo. A live Buffalo. He received 2802 votes, was represented by two different writers (Michael Preston of CougCenter and moi), and is now the last anthropomorph standing in the fiercest mascot death match the world has ever known.

So congratulations Butch T. Cougar! What are you going to do next? He’s going to own the PacHoops facebook cover image for the foreseeable future:

butch and ernie

We shall call it Butch and Ernie.

Thanks to every writer who contributed to the Death Match. They were witty, brilliant, swift, and terrific. This is them:

MikeMontgomery

Mike Montgomery Had One Losing Season. Ever.

Mike Montgomery retired on Monday. It was about thirty-two years after he began and in that span, only once (once) did a team he coached lose more games than they won.

Mike Montgomery is a winner. But you don’t need someone who never played for him and who spent most of his adolescence rooting against his best teams to tell you that. There’s a multitude of others willing to tell you that at the drop of a hat. I read tweets from Stanford Basketball and Cal administrators and reporters and Mark Madsen and the rest of the universe.

He had one losing season in his entire career.

He was (is?) the Pac-12 basketball ambassador. He leaves as a retread returns but Ernie Kent can’t and won’t hold a candle to what Montgomery accomplished in the basketball universe. And that’s not a knock on Kent. Perhaps the contrary. Montgomery leaves as the third most successful Pac-10ish coach of All-Time (behind just Olson and Wooden, good company). In just six seasons he’s Cal’s third winningest coach. He notched a Final Four, an impeccable air on nonchalance, and some of my favorite court-side manor:

Furthermore, he’s accomplished the greatest Cal troll job of All-Time. Every UC-Berkeley outlet has had to gush and effuse about the man’s career and, in doing such, has been forced to be highly complimentary of Stanford. Well played, Mr. Montgomery.

And did I mention he only ever had one losing season amongst thirty-two seasons? I did so I should tell you at least a little bit about it. The 1992-93 Stanford Cardinal. Consequently, it was the last time he wouldn’t participate in a post-season tournament. They beat only USC and Oregon in conference play and were led, in scoring, by Brent Williams. According to a LinkedIn search, Brent is now in either wealth management in Seattle or software development in the Bay Area. Your 92-93 Cardinal, folks.

But because this is March and emotions run high. Because we’ve already covered the McDermott story and the Bo Ryan story, I’ll close with the fact that he’s coached with his son, John, for the last six years. That’s something special. We both know it. I don’t know what’s next for either of these men but I know they’ve come to end of an exciting, unique, and bonding road.

I mean, every damn time this stuff gets me.

Congratulations to Mike Montgomery on a career well led.

Ernie Kent

Why I Like the Ernie Kent Hire

When a change is made it’s usually because a change is needed. I understand that’s simple logic but often if something isn’t working – and particularly if it’s trending downward – then a a new direction is needed. Not an adjustment.

What I’m getting at is I like the Ernie Kent hire. Maybe I don’t love it but that’s a strong word I save for only the prettiest girls on Tinder. Kent is not Ken Bone and the job is now Ernie’s. He’s a big personality – have you listened to him call a game – and is likely to bring excitement to a program seemingly devoid emotion.

If you’re curious his pedigree, how many games he’s won and the programs he’s led, I encourage you to read the WSU release. In short, he was pretty successful at Saint Mary’s (90-80) and cyclically good at Oregon (235-174). A graph:Screen Shot 2014-03-31 at 11.08.10 PMYou can see the ebbs and flows of the regime where ultimately the lows outweighed the highs and he wound up at the Pac-12 Networks.

Alas, the point of this is to note that excitement is what Kent can bring. It’s perhaps his most marketable quality in taking over a program that never won a Pac-12 tournament game under Bone. The Cougars finished last in attendance this year with a putrid 2800 fans filling the Palouse.

And speaking of filling the Palouse, some talent wouldn’t hurt. Since 1986, the WSU program has recruited and developed six players into the NBA draft. In his thirteen seasons in Eugene, Kent recruited eventual NBA draft picks. Talent wins in March (see: Wildcats, Kentucky) and WSU is in dire need of it.

No one – except perhaps Kent – will be quick to call Pullman a recruiting hot bed or destination location. But that’s Kent’s challenge. One Tony and Dick overcame as well as Kelvin Sampson. It’s what Bone most struggled with.

And so it begins: The Ernie Kent era in Pullman. Change was needed and so a 180 was made. Tactical and quiet becomes gregarious and big. Welcome to the Coug show.

What shall it bring us?

APTOPIX NCAA Final Four Michigan Louisville Basketball

PacHoops’ Nine-Steps to Normalcy (and November)

If you’re reading this, know that I am well. Also know that I’m not entirely sure who your team is. What your favorite player did when the clock approached it’s termination and took the season with it. But I do know that more likely than not, your season is through. Tough. To help us, I’ve developed a nine-step grieving process which is really just nine things that you’re going to go through while still bumming out about a shot that never left someone’s hands.

It’s swift madness this tournament and game. From where I’m sitting now I wouldn’t have it any other way. Except every other way.

PacHoops’ Nine-Steps to Normalcy (and November):

  1. Run away – Particularly if you’re sitting in the stadium. Contemplate a 6-hour drive home no matter the hour and energy levels. This is a common tactic whenever feelings are felt and while it’s not long-term effective for anything, it’s an option.
  2. Pretend it didn’t happen - Whether you ran or didn’t you can act as if your favorite pastimes are crocheting and new restaurants. Those are safe and never hurt you. The final outcome of a basketball game never makes the new Asian-fusion bistro taste bad. It can, however, make everything taste bitter.
  3. Text it out - Turns out, you’re not alone! Group text is annoying as shit when it comes to figuring out Friday night plans but it’s cathartic as anything when you’re commiserating. Besides,  maybe one of your buddies has a totally new and fresh perspective on why you lost. That’s always fun.
  4. Know and comment on next season – Eff that. College basketball is brief. It’s fleeting. It celebrates one shining moment. You have to capture those moments as best you can. This moment was captured by someone else. But talk a lot about next season starting yesterday.
  5. Read a message board - Just to feel better about yourself and discover that despite how you’re feeling, you really do have perspective.
  6. Close your computer and eat a cookie - I did this and the white chocolate macadamia nut cookie was a little dry but the fudge cookie was to die for.
  7. Watch one interview. Alone - You cannot risk what might be witnessed by a third party so do this by yourself and make sure that you at least know the gist of what’s going to be said. Absolutely no surprises in this time. Then allow the one interview to spiral into all of the interviews and commentaries and replays. We both know it was going to happen so just do it.
  8. Read an article about the coach of the team who beat you and how he took his dad – as a birthday gift – for 30 straight years to the Final Four and how that dad passed away in August and that the first Final Four that coach will ever coach in will be the first he won’t attend with his dad - Yes.
  9. Appreciate the season -  I’m serious on this one. To salvage your irrational fandom, to give yourself a reason to come back, find the ‘remember whens.’ Mention it in that group text or YouTube it. Recall everything that ever got your team into position to even break your heart and know that anything that does break your heart was probably worth it because everything before it made your heart swell. From the edge of your seat to the hallows of defeat, that’s a season. That is sports. For better or worse. Now have another cookie.
arizona-elite-eight

Arizona’s Elite Meeting with Wisconsin

Amongst travel and remote activity, I’ve managed to learn so much about the Wisconsin Badgers. Granted, it helps that my road trip-mate is a born and raised Milwaukeean and lives and breaths Bob Uecker, cheese, Lambeau Field, believes Ryan Braun really did have herpes, and nearly died when he saw this photo:

ArodBoryanI mean, if you’re a Wisconsin boy does it get much better than that? There is, of course, this side of the reality coin:

Anyhow, with that sort of travel companion, I was bound to learn a lot about the Badgers. This is what I’ve got: They. Are. Disciplined. And they’ve been to the Rose Bowl. Arizona has not.

It’s a Bo Ryan team and they cherish possessions like you cherished that Ken Griffey Jr. Rookie Card when you were eight. In eleven seasons, Wisconsin hasn’t ranked outside the top 10 in offensive TO% but twice. And in those two campaigns they were still top-20. This game will not become the Gonzaga game.

But in some regards it could. The Badgers take lots  of three pointers. About 40% of their shots are from deep. When they miss – and they don’t often, making them at a 37.6% rate, 51st in the nation – it results in long rebounds which can turn in to run outs. Otherwise read as transition offense. Otherwise read as Christ Air (if you’re reading with Wildcat eyes). Against San Diego State (good riddance) the ‘Cats struggled to get out and move and you may have noticed their offense was less than explosive. They worked for those 70 points but two of the biggest plays of the game and momentum swings came on transition buckets like the one at the head of this post. Wisconsin, with their long misses, ranks 308th in percentage of shots coming in transition (23.6%); or, right about what Arizona has averaged since Brandon Ashley’s departure. Opportunity, Wildcats.

One point to keep an eye on – as the Badgers love them some possessions – would be the offensive glass. I’m not entirely sure it’s a strong suit of Arizona 2.0BASHLEY but it certainly isn’t a weak point. Wisco hits the defensive glass at the 10th highest rate in the nation. This ensures their opponents don’t get extra opportunities to score.

At it’s simplest form, this is a match up of an elite offense and an elite defense. It’s also just an exciting match up, period. Let’s run down the lineups:

AZWiscoYou and I both know that the above means very little. But it’s still a pretty interesting glimpse into the similarities – personnel-wise – that these two are running. It also interestingly highlights that you can have similar outputs and accomplish those outputs in very different ways.

The Badgers are going to try and shoot their way to Dallas. Not quite at the level of Michigan, but those aforementioned three-pointers are going to be what gets them to North Texas or sends them home. They make 40% in wins and 30% in losses. In either scenario they are taking about 20 three point-jumpers per game. For context, Oregon was shooting nearly 26 threes in losses and just 18 in wins. Did I mention Wisconsin is disciplined?

And how, you might ask, does Arizona defend the three? Sean Miller’s pack line has allowed the 11th lowest percentage of shots to come from deep – just 26.5% of opponent shots. This does not bode well for Wisconsin. But the converse could hold true. Wisconsin, as we’ve noted, is good at making these shots and one way to beat the pack line is to shoot out of it. Ask Oregon who became just the 7th team to make 10-or-more three pointers against Arizona since Sean Miller became coach.

Moving inside the arc, when the Badgers do lose, it’s because someone attacked. Teams that beat UW have gone at them and taken the ball to the rim. It also hasn’t hurt that what few threes those teams took (average 12), they made (average 6). When Wisconsin wins, the opposition’s three-pointers look more like 4-15. They’re not going to let you take or make many threes, we’ve established this. So when life gives you lanes, make layups. Rondae Hollis-Jefferson certainly has, of late.

There will be one elite offense and one elite defense in one elite game.

Maybe we call this one net cutting practice?

wane

WANE: D.A.N.C.E

Honestly, Spencer and I did one of the better NCAA tournament previews you will ever hear. Unfortunately, only Spence, myself, and our respective computers and perhaps roommates will know. Media malfunction. Or user error. This is a basketball blog not a semantics debate so let’s cut to the hoop: D.A.N.C.E. Sure we missed the overall preview but if coaches keep their jobs with Sweet Sixteen appearances, then consider us the Steve Lavin-now-Johnny-Dawkins of podcasts. Listen:

 

Now, as for The Table. This was a tough one to wrap this week. Road trips to Anaheim aren’t conducive to writing but are conducive to content. More to come.

Instead I can just effuse briefly on what a great day it is for Pac-12 basketball. I know it’s “just” the Sweet Sixteen but there’s something to be said about having three teams in it. There’s something to be said about coming from where the Pac-12 did over the past few years and where it is today. That something is: Bravo. The proverbial bull’s horns have been grabbed and the Pac-12 is reminding a lot of people that there is basketball – good basketball – played after 10 pm EST.

A dear friend, new to New York, has noted his increased Pac-12 defense. He’s a Wildcat, as good as they get, but knows he must sing the praises of Kyle Anderson and Dwight Powell for the world to notice his TJ McConnell. Or just to get Kyle Anderson the attention he deserves. And maybe he doesn’t want it? Maybe he – and Dwight and TJ, too – don’t care who’s saying what about them but rather just the simple fact that they’re playing, and 42 other teams are jealous.

And how sweet would it be to watch Stanford and UCLA battle – round 4 – inside the Memphis’ FedEx Forum for the South Regional title. Has a nice ring to it, no? Unless you’re CBS.

 

powell-dwight-randle-stanford

A Sweet Preview and Some PacHoops Art

I’ve been to Honda Center a handful of times. Most notably when it was called The Pond and we were all Might Ducks fans. Classic. For now, however, I want to discuss what I expect the gym to look like on Thursday when I’m there. It will be full of Badgers, Aztecs, Wildcats, and then the Baylor Bears. Here is my rendition of what the inside of Honda Center will resemble:

HondaCenter

Inside the Honda Center

Tell me I’m wrong?

 

Arizona v Colorado#1 Arizona vs. #4 San Diego State

Storyline: I love what Arizona has a chance to do here (shocker, right?). Should they advance to do what KenPom says they have the second best odds to do, Arizona would have beaten both SDSU and Gonzaga in doing such. Fitting. Last year the Zags were the first Western-based one-seed since UCLA in 2008. They were bounced like Shockers (round of 32). As for the Aztecs - between 2009 and a December 2012 loss to Arizona – SDSU won seven straight games against Pac-12 schools. They haven’t lost to a California based school in something like two Steve Fisher lifetimes (42+ games to be more exact). The Pac-12 was simultaneously doing things like not sending their conference champion to the NCAA tournament and so SDSU and Gonzaga were staking legit claim to the crown of West Coast hoops. But then Arizona beat SDSU in Hawaii (as far West as it gets) and again this past November. Arizona is reestablishing itself as the coast’s elite, San Diego State is trying to win the MWC’s first Sweet 16 game since 1991 (of current MWC members). I like the Wildcats’ pursuit of big things.

Style to keep an eye on: Look, let’s make no bones about it: San Diego State struggles to score. As in their offense ranks just a spot ahead of Northern Colorado and below Northwestern State. #GillingIt. They shoot the 304th ‘best’ FG% on their 2pt jump shots. This does not bode well for them. Arizona’s #1 rated defense is going to force them to take a lot of these shots. Their defense – as we’ve discussed – is predicated on forcing this shot and they do it better than anyone else in the country. So if you want me to run the math for us, I will: Arizona is going to force SDSU to take a ton of shots they don’t make. That’s a rock and a hard place framing that Aztec. And they really do themselves any favors. SDSU is already offensively inefficient and they assist on the third lowest percentage of FGs in the country. For a bro school, they’re really not being bros. Share the rock.

Match up to keep an eye on: Sean Miller doesn’t think there’s a “better guard in the country.” Never mind that his own off-guard is an All-American, Miller effused about Xavier Thames. And rightfully so. He’s putting up 27 per tournament game and draws fouls at a nearly 60% rate. Trouble with a capital DEPTH ISSUES FOR ARIZONA. But this is our match up section. That All-American we mentioned? He happens to be really good at guarding big guards no matter their skill set. Ask Jordan Adams, Roberto Nelson, Chasson Randle, Justin Cobbs, or Xavier Thames. Last time around, Thames got his points (note that aforementioned foul line) but he had to work for it; shooting 5-16 and just 3-12 from inside the arc. As noted, Thames is hot and the Aztecs have needed about every one of his buckets. The game hinges on his play.

Norman Powell, Xavier Talton#4 UCLA vs. #1 Florida

Storyline: The Gators have eliminated UCLA in three of their last six NCAA tournaments. That’s interesting by itself but now let’s note that one of those eliminations came in the national title game and another came in the national semifinal (Final Four if you need an assist). Florida won back-to-back titles and UCLA watched Ben Howland lose his team, program, and eventually his job. We could play the Sliding Doors game and note the ‘what ifs’ but that’s just mean (Like I don’t dwindle on Tim Floyd or Kevin O’Neill thoughts as an Arizona fan). This one means something to the UCLA community no matter who struts that sideline.

Style to keep an eye on: All of it. UCLA wants to get shots up, owners of the 15th shortest possessions in the country. Conversely (a key word as we walk through this match up) Florida forces teams to take the 2nd longest possessions in the country. The Bruins do one helluva job stealing the ball and turning that into transition offense. I writed all abouts it. They’ve got the 4th highest steal rate in the country feeding the 39th highest percentage of transition offense. The converse? Florida’s offense has a very mediocre steal rate (ranks 188th) but have the 13th best transition defense. Are you with me here? These two have very opposing styles which makes for one terrific match up. It projects to be a lot like the Pac-12 championship game which was phenomenal. Hooray the March sport!

Match up to keep an eye on: I’m going to list a few because I’m interested in this. First, Kyle Anderson and Will Yeguete. Few people can stop let alone slow, Slo-Mo. He’s too big for traditional guards, too crafty for bigs, and too good for the rest of the floor. Will Yeguete, however, may have the guile (read: size and athleticism) to contain the point-forward-center-wing. Yeguete is Florida’s 6’8″ garbage man. A crazy thought if you consider just how much dirty work a guy has to do in order to be considered the guy that does the dirty work on a Billy Donovan team. He just might be dirty enough to stop Anderson. Conversely (I’m using it again), there’s nothing dirty about Michael Frazier’s jumper. It’s a thing of beauty. He connects on 44% of his threes and Shot Analytics went ahead and reminded us just how good he is (spoiler: quite good). And UCLA’s defense poses the match up here. They allow the fourth highest percentage of shots to come from distance. Me thinks Michael is going to get some looks. Also, I’ve got to mention the transition D (Florida) vs. transition O (UCLA), again. SUCH A GREAT MATCH UP THAT I’M NOT GOING TO GET TO WATCH WITH THE SAME TIP TIME AS AZ-SDSU. Uggggh.

Stanford v Connecticut#10 Stanford vs. #11 Dayton

Storyline: Three weeks ago Stanford was dead to rights. They had just lost at home to Colorado on a weekend that probably couldn’t see them lose at home to Colorado. And then, on the season’s final Saturday, I was looking up at the television to see Utah with the ball down a point, with a shade less than a shot clock of time remaining, and presumably a play drawn up to sink Stanford’s dancin’ chances. Evidently the Utes didn’t have a play as they dribbled everywhere and eventually off themselves and Stanford won. And they’ve subsequently beaten Kansas, too. Yup, the Kansas Jayhawks lost to Johnny Dawkins’ Stanford Cardinal. The Card have now claimed two of their four biggest wins since joining the biggest stage. So what’s beating KenPom’s #44 team, Dayton (rated below ASU and Utah)? Let’s just say the Stanford Cardinal – dead to rights, playing for their coach’s job – have a very legitimate shot to be playing for a Final Four against a team (UCLA) they’ve already beaten. Think about that. And why the hell not? Stanford beat Kansas - Kansas – without making a single three pointer! The Jayhawks hadn’t limited an opponent to zero 3-pointers since 11/26/2010 when Ohio went 0-18 and Kansas won 98-41. Reread that score. A week later the Jayhawks did the same thing to North Texas as they went 0-12 and Kansas won 93-60. Stanford went 0-9 from deep and beat Kansas.

Style to keep an eye on: Don’t expect Stanford to win going oh-fer from distance this time. Not necessarily because of Dayton – they actually defend the three quite well – but because of the law of averages. Alas, this game won’t soon hinge on the three pointer. This is a game Stanford should win. They’re the bigger, stronger, faster kids who just beat – arguably – the biggest, strongest, fastest team. They’re playing as good of defense as they have all season (0.85 ppp in the tournament) and it really doesn’t matter what they’re doing offensively if they can do that. Similarly, Dayton has been playing sound defense, allowing teams under 0.9 ppp in the tournament. Granted, they’ve upset Syracuse and Ohio State who are (were?) more defensively than offensively oriented, but that shouldn’t take away from their defensive efforts. Meanwhile, the Flyers haven’t particularly scored it well. They are well below their average offensive efficiency in the dance. This could come down to a battle of who can out ugly the other, garnering a few easy baskets off turnovers or offensive rebounds (looking at you Josh and Dwight, though the O-boards aren’t Stanford’s game). I’ve been saying it for awhile, that I’m no longer concerned with pageantry, but if you need to see something that looks good, avert your eyes from this game.

Match up to keep an eye on: The best match up here is Stanford staring down the barrel of Father Time. I’ve spoken about it all over the place – how this is Johnny Dawkins’ group of seniors that stayed. I could note Devin Oliver, Dayton’s stretch-ish four. A 6’7″ 39% 3FG% who is still taking 36% of shots at the rim and leading the team in rebounding…and assists. A similar player to Dwight Powell in that versatility. But at this point, it’s all about Stanford. It doesn’t matter who they’re playing. They are on their last legs. A team on some semblance of a mission to play one more game together. And then another. And another. Until there just aren’t any more games to play.

Hooray the March sport, indeed.

mascot_finals

Pac-12 Mascots Death Match: The Finals

If I had a dollar for every time this week that I heard “I pick my bracket based on how the mascots would fight each other” then I would’ve hosted my own $8 bracket challenge. I CREATED THAT PREMISE FOR YOU RIGHT HERE! Granted, I would probably be beating them in any bracket challenge as it were. I’m winning.

And so too are Ralphie and Butch.

Which is a fascinating championship. Here we have what seemingly amounts to the quintessential anthropomorph – an adorable and hugable Cougar who gloriously plays up that lovable side to the extent that he has ‘hey girl‘ photos and a grossly formal Wikipedia page. Meanwhile, Ralphie is celebrated for her definitive realism, a literal charging buffalo onto the field of battle. For all of Butch’s sweetness, Ralphie matches it in raw American.

Here we are at the championship, two contrasting styles who’ve arrived through voluminous support, charm, and probably some Francis Underwood. Ralphie (not Chip) has received 1074 votes. Butch has received 1084. This is the championship we need and deserve.

The ‘Ship:

RalphieButch

#5 Ralphie (not chip) vs. #11 Butch

Round 1 (255 votes):
Chip from Ben Burrow of Rumblin Buff: I guess, ostensibly, I’m supposed to be talking about Chip, our Mickey Mouse with horns made available for the kiddies.  However, if you’re going to talk University of Colorado athletics, there is only one mascot that matters – the ton of rampaging bison known as Ralphie.  Often a source of confusion, let me confirm that Ralphie is, in fact, a female.  It’s an important distinction, because, if we were to let a male bison loose, death would ensue; after all, a buffalo is an unstoppable goring machine when pissed off.  With the lady involved, we’re only talking serious bodily harm, if you’re lucky.  So, come at me with your anthropomorphic plush toys.  I got a frickin’ buffalo, and you don’t.
Round 2 (199 votes):
Ralphie (not Chip) from Ben Burrow of Rumblin Buff
Well, I guess Ralphie thundered past poor old Traveler.  My condolences to the family of the deceased, but the glue factory’s quota must be met!  Now onto Oskie, which, as far as I can tell, is some kind of pervert bear.  Now, I don’t know about you, but if given the choice between the noble symbol of the American West and furry bait for Chris Hansen, I’m taking the buffalo.  Free choice, and all, but I think we all know the right choice here.
Semifinals (620 votes)
Ralphie 
from Ben Burrows of Rumblin’ Buff
Thankfully, someone called the cops on Oski, and he’s off to enjoy the the fruits of our judicial system, saving us all another uncomfortable second under his perverted gaze.  Ralphie, as she is wont to do, just keeps thundering forward, onto the semifinals and a date with Wilbur the Wildcat. The first thing I see when I look at Wilbur is his stupid hat. (Seriously, a hat?)  What does that signify to me?  Domestication. This Wildcat is ‘wild’ no longer.  He has given up his natural advantages for the comfort of human society.  What a loser.  Ralphie, on the other hand, remains a buffalo, yearning to stampede and conquer the plains.  Her handlers?  A mere annoyance; she only tolerates their presence out of pity.  Given enough reason, she’s off to the races, God knows where to.  Meanwhile, there’s Wilbur, on the couch with his hat, watching the television.  Domestic and boring.  What. A. Loser.  Give me the buffalo and freedom.
Round 1 (119 votes):
Butch
from Michael Preston of Coug Center: He looked more badass before his costume change (made in the name of safety) but Butch T. Cougar is still all that embodies WSU. The dude rides an ATV at full blast onto the field before a football game for cripes sake. He has been known to photo bomb even the most carefully planned sorority pose picture and he isn’t shy about acting his age…which we don’t know but we assume he’s in his rambunctious teenage years. More important than any of that is how much he’s beloved by every single WSU fan from ages 3 to 103. He’s one of the best known mascot in the country for a reason: everyone, even visiting fans, want a picture with the gregarious fella with the long tail. Do you see any other Pac-12 mascot pop up on your Facebook feed as often as him? I didn’t think so.
Round 2 (445 votes):
Butch
from Michael Preston of Coug Center: Butch T. Cougar has advanced to the second round past some shrubbery which is somehow the mascot for a school who takes their nickname from a color. He faces off now against a solar being from the underworld of some kind and all I know about those creatures is that they go to the South looking for spirits to extract from country singers. Butch embodies everything about a mascot you should love. He’s beloved my children and their grandparents who all want a picture with what is arguably the most recognizable mascot west of the Mississippi. He combines the perfect about of ferocity and loveable-ness. He shows up in more pictures with alumni than any other mascot in the conference and there’s a reason for it: WSU is extremely proud of their mascot. Bonus info: the T. in Butch T. Cougar stands for…anyone, anyone?…”The”. So…there’s that too!
Semifinals (520 votes)
Butch from Yours Truly
Look at me. It’s been noted that I rub elbows with Gosling and could wear a suit like Clooney. But instead I run with Pirates. Like that brand of being that does as they wish and leaves no survivors. Have you ever seen Pirates of the Caribbean? Only Brad Pitt (Troy) and Johnny Depp have flipped the script from damsel trying to kill him to…well you know where this is going. Look, the “T” is an abbreviated definite article (the). Butch abbreviates the simplest of words because he doesn’t need you worrying your pretty little heads with too much.  When Butch wears ‘sex panther’ it works 100% of the time. He is, Butch T. Cougar.

#5 Ralphie (not Chip) vs. #11 Butch T. Cougar

  • #11 Butch T. Cougar (57%, 1,718 Votes)
  • #5 Ralphie (not Chip) (43%, 1,300 Votes)

Total Voters: 3,018

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Kansas Stanford

Three Pac-12 Teams Are So Sweet

Pretty good time to be a Pac-12 blogger if you ask a Pac-12 blogger. Three teams are tasting the sweetness of March while another three ended their seasons. And even two of those defeats were in spectacular fashion. Actually, all three of the departed left in spectacular fashion – Colorado’s case was just a little…different than the others?

General Thoughts: If this doesn’t stir up some dust in whatever room you’re in then I’m not entirely sure we’ll get along.

mcdermott1This is real life Field of Dreams but on a basketball court without racist ghosts. This is life’s simplest and universal beauty – father, son, ball – on the biggest stage we can conjure. They both called it special and I’d venture to call it perfect. Thank you, McDermotts.

And while we’re on the topic of perfection, Wichita State-Kentucky. That ranks amongst the greatest games I’ve ever seen played. I hate that we think this somehow legitimizes or otherwise the Shockers. One game does not define a team or a season. It doesn’t define a conference or a schedule. But it can tell you a helluva lot about what’s underneath a jersey. That game was all guts. It was onions and stones and ice. If WSU was going out it was tooth and nail. If Kentucky was going out it was as the team we thought they’d be. And if you still need rationalization for the legitimacy of Wichita State, I challenge you to find a better game Kentucky has played all season. It took a roster of 4-7 first round draft picks playing their best game of the season to knock those kids off. Read this. That game was everything we could’ve wanted. Yeah, I wanted banked threes and Cleanthony steal-n-dunk and that Young three. Perfect. Also, how wrenching is 35-1? Can’t even imagine.

This:

#1 Arizona Wildcats

You guys want to talk about Arizona’s free throws? Yeah, me either. I’m off the pageantry wagon. This is the time of year when you survive and advance. Survival isn’t about looking cute, it’s about not dying. Aron Ralston cut his own god damn arm off to not die. He drank his own piss. So if Arizona beats a sixteen seed by 9 and misses a handful of free throws in doing, I’m not going to lose sleep over it. Because they could also turn Gonzaga over on nearly 30% of their possessions and thunder their way into the Sweet Sixteen. We know what teams can and can’t do at this point. Arizona can roll you and wants to:

“I don’t like the term `survive and advance,’ “ Gordon said. “I like the term `dominate and advance.’”

#4 UCLA Bruins

I could dive into the Bruins’ two wins – look into the terrific play of Jordan Adams and what an ex-factor Norman Powell is. I could note that UCLA is yielding less than 1 point per possession. The kind of defense the supplements perhaps the most high octane offense remaining in this tournament. Could get into some Steve Alford love as he heads to his second ever Sweet Sixteen (kudos). But ultimately UCLA’s games were uninteresting, only briefly competitive, and played against Tulsa and a school seemingly named after a Wrestler and TV character (though 32-3 is a very impressive season). I’m passing on all of that and ignoring that this is a review because I’m so excited for that UCLA-Florida game on Thursday. The Bruins are on a three game March losing streak to the Gators. The Bruins are a phenomenal offensive team. The Gators are a phenomenal defensive team. Will Yeguete guarding Kyle Anderson. The Wear family guarding Patric Young. Gimme this game.

#10 Stanford Cardinal

Johnny Dawkins going full Steve Lavin on us I see. But credit where it’s due: our guy, JD, outcoached Bill Self. He has the talent to do it but to exact a plan that gets Andrew Wiggins just six shots and four points is impressive. It was the second fewest shot attempts he’d take on the season. Sunday was not coming up Wiggins though I watched some of the weirdest basketball transpire in that game. There was a sequence where it seemed Stanford committed four straight turnovers and gave up three offensive rebounds in the process of trying to break KU’s press. Kansas came out of that sequence with no points and Stanford managed an Anthony Brown breakaway layup plus harm. Johnny Dawkins did well but Kansas was not meant to win that game. Also, I can’t tell if I love or hate the fact that Robbie Lemons – a walk-on with the 2010 class of Powell, Huestis, etc. – gets crunch time tick. I suppose it’s growing on me because it’s March and my emotions are heightened and so I’m really hooked on this idea of the underdog. Besides, there’s so much fun to be had with his last name. Because when life hands you lemons, you beat Kansas and go to the Sweet Sixteen.

#7 Oregon Ducks

Close only counts in horse shoes, hand grenades, and meeting Jennifer Lawrence, but man was that one close. The Ducks looked the better team for much of that game and delivered blows, absorbed blows, and came up just short. Joseph Young was terrific and it was a treat to watch Jason Calliste and Mike Moser – the traveled and hungry seniors – refuse to let their careers end. It unfortunately came down to another senior exacting his own will to not retire, Ben Brust. We already talked about learning about what’s underneath the jersey – guts and heart – and these Ducks were all of that across the season’s final month-and-change. That was one helluva run.

#8 Colorado Buffaloes

I mean…tough. We knew it was a mis-match and that things really weren’t stacking up in Colorado’s favor. But that was rough. Pittsburgh did and got whatever they wanted, the Buffs seemingly took it, and went back to Boulder in lopsided fashion. I ultimately think it’s a great learning experience for the program. I thought CU was given something of a favorable seed for their accomplishments over the past few years. A perhaps earned honor but one that could bite them in the ass. And it did. But like I said, learning experience. The tournament is never given to you. No matter whether you’re playing a sixteen or a one, sixty-eight teams are here to compete. If you’re not ready, that can happen to you. There is plenty of good hoop ahead for this Colorado program, the Pitt game was not a set back, but a warning flare that this is some very real stuff.

#10 Arizona State Sun Devils

You all know how I pretty much don’t like this school. I’m from Tucson and grew up understanding that we hate the Sun Devils. But this? I can probably joke about it in a few months – maybe years – but can’t right now. This image is every reason why we love this tournament. No, not because it’s ASU losing, but because the thousand words this picture tells us is the thousands of hours that went into even getting into that moment. To have your career leading shot blocker have one more opportunity to dismiss a game winner; to furiously come back from down a dozen. All of these opportunities for shining moments. And sometimes it doesn’t shine.ASU-bench-reaction-to-loss-to-Texas-720x375

TipOff

And the Ball Was Tipped

Do you remember scouring message boards and twitter for the results of your team’s secret scrimmage? First of all, ignore the ridiculous nature of a ‘secret scrimmage’ and your pursuit of a practice game’s results. That’s not relevant because the professional transgressions you’re about to commit in the next two weeks are arguably greater than that.

Back then, March was two clock changes and a season away. There was an non-conference schedule, a conference schedule and a conference tournament to play. But all that mattered then was what happened during a closed door practice. At that juncture we needed information. Something, anything to give us a glimpse as to what were were about to watch for four months. Could the new kid do this? The veteran do that?

And today? Today we find ourselves with more information than we know what to do with. I’ve calculated how Jordan Bachynski rebounds against the conference’s top-3 offensive rebounding teams; the percentage of possessions that Kyle Anderson converts into a score at the rim; and how well each Pac-12 team defends the rim. Further, we can poke around on any of a number of sites to gain gross insights into how our team might fair in a given match up and how they project to play in a football stadium.

Here’s an analysis:

March EnjoyedI appreciate all of that and acknowledge that none of it matters. Because shortly Luther Vandross will note that ‘the ball is tipped’ and, for right now, that’s all that matters. I’m not dismissing any of this information. I rather cherish it. But I further love the 102 games about to transpire. Ripe with possibility and opportunity, allow me to be the first to tell you that your team has a chance. They do. Now let me be the infinitesimal person to tell you they’ll lose

Because the ball will be tipped. And that’s where you are.

A ball floated into the sky with the opportunity to bounce either way, in any direction, in anyone’s favor. I can tell you who might win; but I can’t tell you who will win.

Enjoy your long lunch, streamed media, and accelerated heart rate. Spill a beer in unadulterated excitement for Cinderella’s heave. Curse your rival. Lament Gus Johnson’s absence.

But most of all: Let the games begin.